God is working out a great purpose in our lives which very few people understand. We mortal human beings were not born with perfect character. We came into this world, and under the influence and sway of Satan the Devil, developed a carnal mind which is enmity against God’s way (Rom. 8:6-8).
But God wants us to have perfect, spiritual character. As strange as it may seem, He is developing this character through experience and suffering. We have all heard the expression, “Well, he certainly learned his lesson that time!” Experience is a great teacher. We can profit from our mistakes if we “learn our lesson” and quit repeating those mistakes.
But most people find it hard to apply this principle to the spiritual realm because they don’t know what salvation really is. God is not trying to save everyone now. Only certain ones are being “called.” Salvation involves learning that our own way is wrong, repenting of it, and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. We must acquire God’s character to fit us to become sons of God –members of the Godhead and kings and priests under Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God (Rev. 5:10).
Failing to understand this, some people believe that little children and babies are “saved” if they die. To justify this teaching, they refer to Matt. 18:3-6 which reads, “verily I say unto you, except you be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Children are converted and will be greatest in the kingdom.” He was speaking to his disciples, telling them to cultivate characteristics that little children ought to have. He knew that a normal, well-trained child will be humble before his parents and have implicit faith in their love, wisdom, and power to help him. Christ was simply pointing out that his followers need this quality in order to inherit God’s kingdom.
Christ repeated this same principle when he said, “Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:13-16). It is the converted Christian, who through a lifetime of experience humbles himself as a little child, keeps God’s commandments and acquires God’s character, that will have a right to eternal life in the family of God and will enter into the gates of the eternal city (Rev. 22:14).
God’s great purpose is that we learn the value of His ways through the experiences of trials, testing and even suffering. Even Christ, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Before giving us eternal life, with all of it powers and responsibilities, God intends that we learn obedience to His law – the right and happy way of life.
Little children have not had opportunity for this spiritual growth. They were born mortal and do not have eternal life in them because they did not receive the Spirit or life of God which imparts eternal life. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by the Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11). Little children die without having been begotten by this Spirit, or life of God.
We read that “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). Yet He permits many little children to die without knowing the truth. Therefore, he will have to raise them from the dead and give them their first and only opportunity to gain eternal life.
All people – young or old-- who have died in ignorance of God’s laws and way will be given their opportunity for salvation. They will receive their opportunity during the Great White Throne Judgment described in Rev. 20:12-13. God deals fairly and equally with every person. He does not have the hurried and confusing way of “saving” people that misguided preachers have taught. We need time to “grow in grace and knowledge.” Everyone, including little children, needs character development which comes before we inherit the precious gift of eternal life. The little children whose lives have been snuffed out at an early age will live again. They will have their opportunity to grow up and live a productive life. But, this time they will be taught God’s way.